Spontaneous Orders: Ecology and Economics

Gus diZerega of Liberty & Power writes:

Both markets and ecologies are complex processes relying on negative and positive feedback to coordinate otherwise independent actions into more productive and adaptive patterns of interaction than could ever be accomplished by deliberate planning. Both are resilient and fragile. ...

People who are exquisitely sensitive to distortions generated in markets by external political intervention enthusiastically endorse central control or overriding of ecological processes.

For their part, many environmentalists who are well versed in ecological understanding are insensitive to the deep distortions arising from political intervention in the market. Sometimes they blame markets for what is really the result of political intervention. Sometimes they seek political intervention without appreciating how it is likely to backfire.

Despite these similarities, I'm still more inclined to be an environmental engineer than an economic engineer, for at least two reasons.

First, economic markets are for humans and by humans (by human action, not human design), whereas ecological markets are for humans, animals, plants, and other natural processes. As a humanist, I care more about humans than I do about non-humans, and I am willing to sacrifice the interests of plants, animals, and the environment if doing so is in the bests interests of humans. It seems to me that many ecologists and environmentalists are in an important sense anti-humanist; they do not give the interests of humans additional weight over the interests of the rest of the natural world.

Second, we have good theoretical reasons for thinking that socialist economic calculation in the absence of a price system is impossible. Do we have similar reasons for thinking that completely or even mostly artificial ecological calculation and engineering is impossible or very likely to lead to unintended consequences? I don't know, I'm not an ecologist. What is the equivalent of the price system for the environment? Who are the ecological Mises and Hayek?

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Planning is more likely to

Planning is more likely to work when the planners are more intelligent than the planned. True in the environment, not true in the economy.

Information, not intelligence

Planning is more likely to work when the planners are more intelligent than the planned. True in the environment, not true in the economy.

I don't think I agree with the above. The critique of planning in the economic sector, as I understand it, is not that the planners are not intelligent enough. After all, in the heyday of planning, the idea was to gather top economic scientists with the best computing available and crank through the calculations. Rather, the problem is without markets and the price system, there is no way to gather the required information in order to coordinate the economy.

Now, I have no idea if the above is true for the environment as well as the economy. But I question the proposition that the planners would be more intelligent for the environment than for the economy. After all, wouldn't they largely be the same people, namely, politicians?